US announces state probe of practices among mortgage firms

All 50 US states yesterday launched a joint investigation of the mortgage industry, a move some experts fear will cause uncertainty and threaten the recovery of the fragile housing market.

The state attorneys general are looking at allegations some banks used shoddy or fraudulent paperwork to remove struggling borrowers from their homes during a foreclosure crisis that is one of the most visible wounds of the 2007-2009 recession.

Industry experts warn the investigation could put the brakes on foreclosure proceedings. One of every four homes sold in the second quarter was a foreclosed property and any slowing could have an impact on the broader economy, as the housing market traditionally drives recoveries after a downturn. The US has an $11 trillion (£6.9 trillion) residential mortgage market.